Rising diesel prices have made tackling fuel economy more important than ever. Given how much you spend on fuel each year, even a small change in fuel usage can mean boost your profit. For example, using using a low-viscosity oil can boost fuel economy, but that's the just one of several management tactics you can use to boost profits in spring and fall.
What follows is a series of tactics you can take on in your operation that will help lower your fuel bill, which often takes savings right to the bottom line. However, it’s important that those changes make sense to you and your operation.
The tips that follow can help reduce fuel consumption on your farm or ranch, prolong the life of your equipment and help protect the environment.
Most of these actions can be low-cost or even free, and they provide immediate savings. Those tips that do have a cost often offer a cost-effective payback. Energy conservation ideas can be focused in three areas:
- Equipment operation and maintenance
- Field practices
- Fuel storage
Equipment Operation and Maintenance
Maintain that machine
Keeping your farm vehicles in top condition will save fuel and money, reduce repair costs, improve reliability and reduce emissions. These maintenance maneuvers are especially important before and after harvest season. This type of schedule can prevent invisible fuel wasters like blocked air filters, which can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20%, or a faulty spark plug, which can increase fuel use by 10 to 15%. For diesel engines, you'll want to keep injectors clear too. Following the proper maintenance schedule will not only increase fuel efficiency but also extend the life of your equipment.
Your maintenance schedule should include getting regular tune-ups; replacing air, oil and fuel filters routinely; changing oil as recommended by manufacturers; and using the proper grade of oil. OEM’s allow the use of 10W30, and one fuel-saving example is Delo 400 XLE Synblend SAE 10W30. This low-viscosity oil, which OEMs such as Volvo and Cummins are using in the factory, has been shown to improve fuel economy by approximately 1% in on-road testing. Moving to lower viscosity engine oil allows fleets to capture immediate fuel economy savings without any additional hardware purchases.
Gear up and throttle down
Running your machinery at the proper RPM is essential to fuel efficiency. To find out the right RPM for your vehicle, consult the guidelines and make sure you don’t overload the engine. However if you are hauling a heavy load of hay bales or pulling a tillage tool, consider reducing the engine RPM by “gearing up and throttling down.”
Apply proper pressure
Your tires should be properly inflated. Just one under-inflated tire can make a huge difference - if your tire is 6 pounds per square inch (psi) below recommendations, fuel consumption could be increased by three%, not to mention the number it’s doing to your tire’s life. Under-inflated tires decrease traction, create ruts in soft soil and can deteriorate sidewall tread.
Cold temperatures decrease the air pressure in tires, so check it regularly when it’s cold outside. Over-inflated tires can also be problematic because they cause premature tire wear, increased soil compaction and increased fuel consumption because of heightened rolling resistance. You’ll also want to have your wheels aligned and balanced because that minimizes resistance from your tires, which can reduce fuel economy.
Get the most out of your engine
Several small tweaks can make a big difference. Avoid quick starts because they waste fuel and are hard on equipment. Make sure your thermostat works properly to save energy. The majority of engines run most efficiently when water temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F. Fuel consumption increases by approximately 25% when the engine is operating at 100 degrees F, instead of the recommended temperature.
Minimize idling - it can account for 15 to 20% of total fuel used. Letting an engine idle for 10 minutes during an average day would equal 61 hours/year and use about 31 gallons of fuel more than needed on a 75-horsepower diesel tractor.
You can also upgrade your equipment to more fuel-efficient models. If you have to replace something, compare fuel requirements of different makes and models. A higher purchase price can be partially offset by lower fuel costs and will be even cheaper in the long run through fuel savings.
You could significantly reduce your fuel use by changing your field practices. Ask yourself if certain practices are slowly siphoning your energy dollars. Take a look around and see where better planning or a small investment might save energy and money in the long run.
- Would a larger seed hopper decrease trips to refill planters?
- Is your disk so small that it takes extra passes to cover a field? Or is it so excessively wide that it requires too much horsepower?
- Are you using a full-sized vehicle for spraying, spreading, rock picking, and other tasks, instead of a small, lightweight vehicle, such as an ATV?
Another great way to conserve fuel is to use the right equipment for the job. Choose the smallest, lightest tractor appropriate for the job to get the best fuel economy. Your fuel efficiency will decline drastically when you use equipment with too much or too little horsepower for the job.
In conservation tillage, also known as minimum tillage or reduced tillage, crops are grown with minimum cultivation. Fuel savings vary, but could be as much as $10 per acre compared to traditional tillage methods. Plus, you can cut tractor use in half with no-till methods.
Storage tanks can lose a considerable amount of fuel due to evaporation and leaks. A 300-gallon storage tank, for example, can lose about 120 gallons each year from evaporation. You can reduce that loss to about 15 gallons per year by following these steps:
- Keep fuel tanks well-shaded.
- Paint tanks white or aluminum to reflect the sun's heat. Light colors reduce evaporation losses.
- Use pressure-relief vacuum caps rather than conventional gas caps.
- Lock unattended fuel tanks.
- Regularly inspect your tanks for leaks.
As this publication illustrates, while there is little you can do to change the price you pay for fuel, you can take steps that will reduce fuel consumption and save money. One good step includes the use of a low-viscosity oil like Delo Delo 400 XLE Synblend SAE 10W30, but that isn’t the only factor. Get started today on a fuel conservation plan, and you could increase profits, prolong the life of your equipment, help protect the environment, and more. Contact your local Chevron Lubrication Marketer or find a marketer in your area. If you have technical questions, contact [email protected] or call 1-800-LUBE-TEK (800-582-3835).
You can also view an informative webinar on this topic.